Let’s offer God an ‘Abel offering’!

[notice]Hugh Wetmore is a songwriter and student of worship trends. He invites you to join the worship conversation by commenting on his monthly column.[/notice]

The Convener of a recent Worship Leaders’ Workshop sent out this email:
“As elder in oversight of our music ministry, it is my duty to ensure that our praise & worship is an “Abel offering” to God at all times. Over the past few months we have had some Sundays where worship has been outstanding and some Sundays where it has been rather disappointing as an offering to our King. There is no specific pattern and no specific strong or weak team. We have all had “off days”, including me. The eldership feels that this is a critical ministry and it is imperative that we get it right; that we bring our best possible offering to God every Sunday. To address this, please can we have a meeting just for worship leaders ….”

“By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did.” (Hebrews 11:4).

Every Worship Leader will share this ambition: to bring an Abel offering to the Lord each Sunday i.e. our best possible offering to God every Sunday. The fact that Abel’s offering was faith-based means that he believed this was the offering that God wanted. God must have revealed His offering specifications to Adams’ family, for “faith comes by hearing the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). Abel’s offering was obedient to God, Cains’ offering was convenient to Cain.

Do you choose the songs you like, or do you choose the songs God wants?
God has given us, in His word, the criteria for choosing the songs that please Him, so that we can offer Him our Abel offering of song.

What does the Old Testament say?
1. God wants us to sing vertical praises to Him. The 4th Book of Psalms is full of instructions to sing vertical songs to the Yahweh God.(e.g. Psalm 95:1; 96:1,2; 98:1; 101:1; 105:2)

2. God wants us to sing horizontal sermons to one another. God told Moses to “write down for yourselves this song and teach it to the Israelites and make them sing it, so that it may be a witness for me against them.” (Deuteronomy 31:19). So Moses summarised his previous 5 sermons into the Song of Moses, in the lyrics of chapter 32. This is a teaching song (32:2), not a ‘Praise and Worship’ song. We must sing horizontal songs to teach one another about how God wants us to live, and to admonish one another not to follow our own desires.

What are the New Testaments’ criteria for the songs God wants – the Abel offering of song?
1. God wants us to sing horizontally the Word of Christ to one another, using every genre of music – “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs”. Our goal is to “teach and admonish one another” (Ephesians 5:18-20; Colossians 3:16). As we are filled with the Spirit and with the Word, we must sing horizontal songs to teach one another about how God wants us to live, and to admonish one another not to follow our own desires.

2. God want us to sing vertically to Him, praising His worthiness, power and glory. This is our earthly choir practice for the heavenly anthems we will sing with the angels around the throne. (Revelation 4:11; 5:9-13; 7:10-17; 11:15).

An Abel offering of song will carefully select songs from every genre (psalms, hymns and spiritual songs) to be sung vertically in praise and worship to our triune God, and horizontally to each other – sermons in song that will teach and admonish each other.

An Abel offering of song will start by selecting songs on the basis of the meaning of the lyrics, not on the basis of the tune, or the rhythm, or the key, or whether it is fast or slow. Once the lyrics have been chosen, then the musical factors may be considered. For whether vertical or horizontal, it is essential that the songs be Biblical.

Do you choose the songs you like, or do you choose the songs God wants?
Do you offer the songs on the basis of Cains’ personal preference or on the basis of Gods’ revealed criteria?

These criteria include: Vertical and horizontal Songs; All genres (psalms, hymns and spiritual songs).

CCLIs’ latest list of Top 25 songs sung in South African churches reveal that all 25 are vertical (horizontal songs aren’t popular now as they used to be).
1 Psalm (Though it just uses Psalm 41:1 as a launchpad for its’ generalised lyrics).
2 Hymns
22 Spiritual Songs

This analysis shows how churches are slipping into a Cain-offering. How important it is for Worship Leaders to take seriously Gods’ revealed criteria for the songs He wants to hear us sing on Sunday!

Let’s make sure we offer Him “an Abel offering”!

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